By Tiffany Ross- Consumer Resource Officer & Bruce Rinne- Information Officer
The North Carolina Real Estate Commission has been receiving an increasing number of calls and emails about fraudulent rental ads attempting to scam innocent people out of their security deposits or application fees. These scam artists can be located anywhere in the world, yet claim they are local property owners. Here is information about rental scams and the Red Flags to alert you of a potential scam.
How You Can Avoid a Rental Scam
Many rental scams take place on social media. For example, a fake owner or fake property manager posts on Facebook, Craigslist, Twitter or other social media outlets. The posts look legitimate and may even have actual pictures of the real property they are claiming to be renting. In reality, the scammer has no connection to the property or right to advertise it, but the ad will ask for upfront payments to even view the property, or first month’s rent or a security deposit in advance. They may promise the money will be held in a trust account, and the destination appears to be legitimate, but it really goes to a scammer who is never heard from again. Being aware of this scam and not falling for these tactics can prevent the loss of hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
Action You Can Take:
Red Flags That You May Be Dealing With a Scammer
What To Do If You Are Already a Victim Of a Rental Fraud Scam
If you have already responded to a fake ad and sent money, only to never hear from the scammer again, you can contact the North Carolina Attorney General’s office to notify them of the scam and provide as much information as you can. You can also contact local law enforcement (sheriff or police) and submit an internet crime complaint to the FBI to report the scam and see if there is any chance of recovery.
How You Can Protect Your Clients
If you work in sales and have clients that need to rent before purchasing a home, educate them on these dangers and assist them by looking up properties listed in the MLS or refer them to legitimate property management company websites in your area. Provide information like this article to help them to avoid the scams and traps, and assist them with verifying property owners through a public records search. Stay in contact with them, and make sure they are aware of NC Landlord and Tenant laws. They can contact the Commission’s Regulatory Affairs Division at (919) 719-9180 if they have questions or concerns about the actions of a licensed property manager. Or, they can contact the Attorney General’s office (877-566-7226) if they have concerns about the actions of an unlicensed property owner, managing their own property, or other unlicensed property management activity.